The End of Ragequitting

When Joel Spolsky, my business partner on Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, asked me what I wanted to do after I left Stack Exchange, I distinctly remember mentioning Aaron Swartz. That's what Aaron was to us hackers: an exemplar of the noble, selfless behavior and positive action that all hackers aspire to – but very few actually achieve.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Thanks for not quitting.


I’ve been thinking about “RageQuitting” and its impact on the web community for some time. I made a dedication page to try to end it:
I want to get an IRC channel set up specifically to deal with the human factors of programming — or to just give a coder someone non-judgemental to chat with.
Infosuicide aka RageQuitting is only going to become a bigger problem unless we start to acknowledge and fight it as a community.

Thanks for this post. You’ve concisely expressed feelings I’ve had difficulty articulating.

Hey Jeff,

Thanks for writing this. It meaningful, respectful, and well thought out.

In regards to you contemplating your “final move” and your decision to keep on fighting, I want to say “thank you”.

I’ve followed you since the beginnings of my web development career, even before you created Stack Exchange. Every day I’d sit down at my desk at that job I couldn’t stand and I’d read the latest post on your site. I found them (and still find them) the be insightful, helpful, and even funny at times. Your contribution to the Internet made my days at that job a little easier to bare. In fact, I can honestly say that when there wasn’t a new post to read that day, I’d be a little bummed. I can’t imagine how bummed I’d feel if I knew no more posts were ever going to be created.

Please, please keep doing what you’re doing. I really appreciate it. We all do.

You’re right about us failing to support Aaron well enough. At least you’re right about me. I knew he was right, and that he was being persecuted, and I did nothing about it. It’s time to change that and get behind the people who are fighting for the things we believe in.

This is an awesome post…
I think a whole 'nother component of this concept is 'forgiveness.'
Not to forgive bad/inappropriate behavior but to forgive one’s own anger etc. to be able to move on, see the good in people, etc., and the reason why I think of this is that ‘forgiveness’ and ‘ragequitting’ apply to all areas of one’s life (personal, emotional, mental, etc. etc.).
Thank you for writing this…
Thank you, Tom

“And I am convinced, absolutely and utterly convinced, that Aaron would have prevailed.”. You might be, Aaron wasn’t. He called it quits when he still had the option. Once he would have been arrested, there would be no more options. From there on it would have been a gamble, where losing would mean spending the rest of his foreseeable life in federal prison, and winning would have been one off articles in Wired, Ars, mentions on Slashdot and Reddit: a minor win.

I’m not saying Aaron was right taking his own life, but I can certainly understand it. To me, this wasn’t a ragequit. It was folding your hand, when all you have left is a chance to hit that last out, and win a small pot, and you stand to lose the rest of your life. When you say “consider your long game.”, I think that is exactly waht Aaron did.

I enjoyed your article, the romanticized idea of martyrdom and ragequitting in terms of ‘infocide’ like the cases you mention it seems to fit well, but Aaron’s case was not a ‘ragequit’. It was a response to a serious mental condition.

“But do not, under any circumstances, give anyone the satisfaction of seeing you ragequit. They don’t deserve it. Play other, better moves – and consider your long game.”

Depression and suicide is about hopelessness and constant pain. It isn’t about sticking it to anyone and depression by its very nature makes ‘considering the long game’ impossible. For people plagued by it, there is no future, only the black dog looking back at you.

There are many conversations coming out of Aaron’s death, copyright, information freedom, the overreach of the law, predator prosecutions but an important one that is being overlooked, in my opinion, is mental health. Programmers, activists, and in Aaron’s case a person of extremely high intelligence, all seem to be more susceptible to mental illness.

Maybe, even if nothing else comes out of Aaron’s death. No changes to copyright, no prosecutor’s getting fired, no open data. Maybe at least we can all take the feeling’s of the people around us a little more seriously. Look a little harder for the people that are hurting. And try to help them.

Great post Jeff.

I too, feel the injustice brought upon Aaron by the American government and sympathize with how his family and friends must be feeling from his ‘ragequitting’.

I too, have considered ragequitting. Not only would it be selfish for me to place that toll on my family, but as you’ve said,

“do not, under any circumstances, give anyone the satisfaction of seeing you ragequit. They don’t deserve it.”

Let us continue to fight (for what we believe) is right, and stay strong.

Conrad Black was convinced he would win, and he got most of his charges dropped or was found not guilty, but he still did jail time for a few counts. But people survive prison. Aaron Swartz likely had other problems that the case against him exacerbated. Seems like the UK was right not to send Gary McKinnon to the USA.

Plea bargaining seems so convenient and pragmatic in the movies and on TV, but in real life it has come to look like corruption and with different defendants playing the game against each other.

Jeff, I’m glad you can be open about some of your personal issues. Stay with us. We want you to bring us TIE Fighters, but whatever happens, just be there for your family.

Aaron still committed a crime (even if that crime is stupid as is plea bargaining) and so should accept responsibility for it. And the sentence wasn’t unfair. He was offered 6 months if he pleaded guilty. I don’t know how it works in the US compared to the UK, but here you are released after serving half the sentence. And should crimes go unpunished just because the perpetrator has depression.

the path of the activist is to fight, for as long and as hard as it takes, to effect change

There’s something about suicide so terrible, so sorrowful, that I can’t help but feel bad for having negative thoughts about someone who gives up on life. I feel the same disappointment you feel, but I also feel guilty for feeling disappointed. Does it matter that Aaron was an activist? Perhaps it makes us expect him to be even more invincible than the average citizen. Would you feel less disappointed if he took his own life in some form of grant protest, rather than alone? Ragequitting is like giving up, and it’s giving up that we can’t accept, whether the victim is an activist or not. As a society. As people. As living beings. The instinct to live is so strong, must be so strong, that its absence shakes us to our core.

When all you have is a gun, everything looks like a gun target. That is, by definition, what government is. Today is a good day to think about the last thing modern abolitionist call for, stop the slavery of man by each other. No more taxes, no more threats against innocent people, no more cops knocking on your door and entering w/o a warrant and getting away with it.

Today, let us all put down the gun and become voluntaryists.

Note where Julian Assange is and why.

Remember the Anthrax attacks and the “person of interest” that lost his job and could not find another? No one remembers the suicide of the other person the FBI suspected and threatened, not even charged but harassed - note they tried to intimidate and coerce his son into saying something, anything, against his father as well as the rest of family, friends and acquaintances.

I could go on for pages about the people who you either never heard about and weren’t controversial so you might not care either way - so is it only because it was Aaron that you care? - or people you would find odious or obnoxious so you desire to have the jackboots around assuming they will only destroy people you don’t like.

Every so often the hacker community is attacked about rights it holds dear, and like the NRA it sometimes succeeds in beating back the tyranny. But like the NRA it is UTTERLY INDIFFERENT to liberty itself. There are no “fundamental rights” or you and the NRA would work together to insure the 1st, 4th, 5th, AND 2nd amendments were strictly interpreted and enforced.

When most people do not care BECAUSE the tyranny is part the 80% of the constitution they aren’t affected by, each overlapping 80% means that NOTHING IS LEFT. You love speech and privacy but hate guns. Some love guns and privacy but hate speech. Some love speech and guns but hate privacy.

Deitrich Boenhoffer was the one who said “When they came for the gypsies/communists/jews I did not speak up because I was not one of them… [but] when they came for me there was no one left to speak for me”.

Last election there was Ron Paul who was against the jackboots. But not enough people wanted him - and I would note that during the GOP primaries and caucuses the tech community was either apolitical or were democrats so didn’t care to have a choice, so it was Romney v. Obama. There was rallying about SOPA, but nothing about the FBI and DoJ malicious prosecutions. I had hope for #occupy, but that seems to have fizzled although it did provide a constant witness against the corruption and injustice.

Does it matter if the tyrant who kills your liberty has a D or R label any more than the virus that kills you has DNA or RNA?

I don’t see the effective point of this piece. You point out your disappointment in yourself, then flip it around and call Aaron a ragequitter. Totally hypocritical. It was his life, his ideas, and his activism that made the game what it is now. I’d say you live your life under the persecution of the DOJ, then write another commentary on what it feels like to be a martyr. If you want to stop feeling disappointed, get your ass out from behind your computer screen, stop writing these fluff pieces and let Aaron’s legacy live on by getting out there and doing something. You’re just like the rest of the brainwashed iMasses: unsatisfied, highly opinionated without warrant, at the ready to point fingers, and always waiting to take advantage of someone else’s collapse to gain some clout. Thanks, for the comments, at least it was payback for reading this atrocious article. What a waste, you PIG!

Thanks for writing that, as someone who is self employed and running a software company,I see that we lost another good troop. It’s unfortunate his mental health wasn’t addressed at an earlier time. Now is the time for remembrance, but it is also the time to plan.


I’m in the process of getting funding and development started on a few projects of mine, please reach out to me if you are interested in a startup.

sorry for the weird reply

Would you treat your wife this way, knowing that you don't know what it's like to give birth? Should you judge a suicidal person without knowing what they are experiencing?

Equating ragequitting with the need to end one's own life doesn't do justice to the helplessness and pain that Aaron must have felt. 

Regardless of what a person might have achieved or what their personal philosophy was, I feel sad for everybody that has to suffer so bady, that the only way out is to end it. It truly sucks.

“But also, I must admit that I am a little disappointed in Aaron. I understand that depression is a serious disease that can fell any person, however strong. But he chose the path of the activist long ago.”


“I’m so disappointed in Jane. I know she had cancer, and anyone can get cancer. But she was a triathlete!”

Depression causes suicide. We should celebrate Aaron for having accomplished so much, and for having been as bright a light, while he suffered. What good is it to stigmatize depression and denigrate Aaron as weak because he fell?

There is no good to this kind of “it’s all in your head” and “just decide to forge on” sentiment. He couldn’t. That’s depression.


You dedicate one measly paragraph on your disappointment with the government, but many more on ragequitting. I find the priorities skewed and think a lot more time should have spent on what’s become a government gone haywire.

A brother of a friend had someone send him, on his open IRC server, child porn. He deleted it the instance he found it, but was raided by the FBI who undeleted the file. He’s in federal prison now for at least 7 years.

People tolerate this crap because they don’t know it happens. It’s not a concern until it happens to them. Can you even begin to imagine the stress of having to go through this while being innocent?

Stop pretending as if the current administration or the next one will bring some kind of change. People have selected to sacrifice their liberties. Mindsets need to be changed.

Ragequitting isn’t necessarily a cheap exit strategy. It may be the only way out at times.

But Aaron DID asked community for help.